The Externship Program provides law students with the opportunity to gain valuable legal work experience while earning academic credit.

Externship Benefits

Completing an externship can:

  • Make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers
  • Aid your transition from law student to practicing attorney
  • Allow you to practice and improve critical lawyering skills and values
  • Help you form your professional identity
  • Increase your awareness of social justice issues

Program Overview

Externships are

  • Law-related placements outside of law school, where you generally work for a government agency, nonprofit or court and attend a seminar with law school faculty
  • Similar to internships, but instead of working for pay, you earn law school credit upon satisfactory completion
  • Educational opportunities, where students are closely mentored by onsite supervising attorneys or judges, with time to reflect on and discuss your experience with a faculty supervisor in a related seminar
  • Opportunities to apply your legal training in real-world legal working environments, enhance your readiness for practice, and learn about possible career paths
  • Vital components of law students’ legal training

What you can expect

  • Each externship is unique
  • The type of work varies depending on the placement
  • All students engage in law-related work, no matter the externship
  • Designed to be a learning experience
  • Both your faculty and site supervisors will guide you in reflecting on your experience, which helps you learn and grow as a lawyer


  • Externships can be full- or part-time
  • You and your site supervisor must settle on the number of hours you will work each week
  • This number determines how many credits you earn. (See academic credit section for more information)
  • As part of your externship, you must attend and participate in a (PDF) to determine number of credits earned for given hours of work.

Note: Most sites will allow you to volunteer more hours than what you earn credit for. But please be aware that working more hours than what the credits require does not mean you will automatically earn more credits. Be aware also that at some sites, particularly in summer, students are required to work full-time, regardless of the number of credits earned.


Externship Policy Change. Paid Externships Approved!

Beginning summer semester 2023, the Seattle University School of Law Externship Program will allow students who receive compensation to earn credit.

Thanks to our students, staff, deans, faculty, and site supervisors for the effort that went into creating this policy change!

Although the ABA lifted its ban on paid externships in 2016, most schools required that externships be unpaid until recently. SU students advocated for a change in the policy, but most sites could not pay, and faculty and supervisors had concerns about the impact of payment on externships’ academic goals. In 2020 the school’s renewed focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion led to a push for change by students, the Student Bar Association, and externship program faculty and staff.

In the summer of 2022, the United States District Court in Seattle and Tacoma created a paid externship pilot explicitly designed to increase diversity. SU and UW externship programs worked with the court to encourage measures to ensure inclusion, for example to avoid the use of transcripts during the application cycle since they do not accurately measure the abilities of students with fewer resources. The court also created additional programming to ensure that those selected, many of whom were first-generation students, would receive mentoring, opportunities for observation, and additional training. The pilot was successful and will be offered again this summer.

In November of 2022, the SU Externship program surveyed its sites again and found that most were now in favor of paid externships, although only a few can pay. The Program Director drafted a policy to allow paid externships at existing sites. The policy includes measures to ensure that observation, training, and feedback are preserved since research has found these opportunities decline slightly in paid positions. Faculty voted to approve the policy and it has now been modified to include PILF grantees who will now be able to earn externship credit while receiving a PILF grant. We will be sharing this policy change with our externship sites as well.

Contact Us

Externship Program

Make an appointment with Externship Program Faculty on Microsoft Bookings.

When should I start applying to externships? Is there a deadline?

It is best to apply for externships about 3 to 5 months before the start of the semester. Here are a few things to be aware of.